He left his crown behind to begin a new life. She sought a place to heal her heart. Love was the last thing on their minds.
Phillipe de Poitiers, a prince of Antioch, finds himself a breath away from wrongful execution. Risking everything, he leaves behind his crown, his family, his country—and a body sworn to be his by the Bishop, himself.
Free of court intrigue and drawn to Scotland by memories of a woman who once possessed his heart, Phillipe sells his sword to pay for his travels and accepts the task of guarding the daughter of Laird MacLaren.
When Maggie MacLaren’s abusive marriage fails, she want nothing more than to retire to her childhood home on the banks of Loch Lomond. Trouble follows her, putting her clan in danger, and she travels to the Isle of Hola, placing her safety in the hands of a mysterious mercenary with a haunted smile and a kind heart.
As Maggie and Phillipe struggle with their pasts, love blooms. But when a pirate’s treasure offers a seductive lure, will it free them—or prove the downfall of all they hold dear?
Phillipe of Antioch, briefly king of Cilicia, would be remembered by the world as an arrogant, presumptuous man, poisoned two years after his marriage to the queen of Cilicia, accused of crimes against his adopted country. This re-imagined telling of Phillipe’s life, one of court intrigue, distrust, and the lust for power, shines a different light (and ending) on the tale.
“Exciting from start to finish!… I confess to staying up far too late into the night, unable to put this story down.” Amazon Reviewer
Read an Excerpt:
Hand claps as fast as the beat of her heart urged Maggie’s feet to a brisk tempo. She dipped and swayed, spinning as hands passed her from one dancer to another. This was no stately, courtly dance, suitable for the earl’s hall, but one filled with the untamed soul of the isle. Laughter as bright as the ripple of water over black rock spilled from her. Her skirts and hair whipped about her as wild as the storm-swept seas. Music screed in the air, devastating as the absence of breath when it halted.
She stood in the middle of the longhouse, panting, heated, alive and carefree for the first time in months. Smiling, she shook her head as the music began anew. She accepted a mug of chilled mead, relishing the crisp flavor. Emptying the mug, she set it aside, still overwarm from her exertions. A cool breeze beckoned from the open doorway, and she followed the desire to feel its touch.
With a shake of her head, she declined Callan’s silent offer to follow. He’d placed a guard among the revelers on the beach and the ship remained at the pier. Though the sailors had been invited to the feast, the captain maintained a watch over the harbor. There was nothing to fear.
Mist lay low over the tidal pools, like steam rising from scattered cauldrons. Waves in the harbor reflected a thousand moons. Foam slid up the beach to form a rippling line in the sand, retreated, then formed again. Maggie inhaled the salt air. She loosened the laces at the side of her gown, allowing the coolness of the night access beneath the cloth. Fingers of a breeze lifted her hair and trailed beneath the neckline of her kirtle. The heat of the longhouse disappeared.
She stepped carefully across the sand, aware of a curious buzzing in her head, a tingle in her arms and fingers. Like the bubbles in the mead, the sensation raced just beneath her skin. She grinned.
The mead is even more potent than I thought.
Water seeped into her footprints then disappeared in a flurry of froth. Choosing a gently rounded boulder, Maggie perched atop, tucking her skirts close to keep them from the teasing waves. Bending her legs, she rested her cheek on her knees, shoulders rounded, fingers trailing in the water pooled at the base of the rock.
Her gaze moved from the stretch of sand to the clifftops rising above the harbor. Stars twinkled in the dark blue sky, mingling their white light with that of the moon on the gently waving grasses, glistening stone, and rippling water.
Mine. This was given to me by a man who has no idea what real riches are. I have been here scarcely a day and already feel ties to this bit of land and water. Naught could entice me to leave.
Warmth swept through her.
And the people accept me.
They like me.
She hugged the thought to her, joy welling. Laughter and music drifted from the longhouse. The sea called from beyond the harbor.
“May I join ye?”
A spurt of annoyance flashed through Maggie at being disturbed, but Phillipe’s voice soothed the displeasure. She was too content to fuss, and she discovered she wanted to share this perfection with the Frenchman.
“Aye. Choose a seat.”
Phillipe’s hawk-like eyes glittered, his beard a shadow in the moonlight, hiding the lower half of his face. He propped a boot atop a boulder a few inches away. He met her gaze.
“Ye are enjoying yourself.”
A simple statement. Neither censure nor disbelief marred the words. A smile of delight slid across Maggie’s face. Lifting her head, she unwound and braced her hands to either side. She arched her back, face to the stars. “Aye. This will suit me well.”
Phillipe cleared his throat, a low rumble of sound that ignited a pleasant shiver over her skin. “Have ye thought of the suggestions I spoke of earlier?”
“Aye. Or, nae, though I dinnae know what else to say but to thank ye.” She admired the stars then let her gaze drop to the man next to her, seeing much to admire there as well. A faint bubble of laughter rose along with a sense of utter well-being.
The mead. I drank too much mead. The thought both appalled and amused her.
Her gaze followed the lines of his tunic stretched taut across his shoulders, then to the rolled cuffs which revealed strong forearms. He’d removed his chain mail, and she realized she’d never seen him without it before.
I like ye better without the mail. Her eyes flew open wide. Had she spoken aloud?
She drew a soft, shuddering breath and glanced away. With an effort, she forced her attention back to his question. “I see the merit in yer plan, and though I dinnae know where the funds will come from, I will do all in my power to pay in a timely manner.” She cast a furtive look at him beneath lowered lashes.
Phillipe’s lips twitched.
Damn! She pinched her lips together between her teeth to hold the words back. Saint Finnian’s beard! I willnae drink mead again.
“I did not wish to add salt water to the list of grievances when I next clean and oil my armor.”
“Of course.” Butterflies did somersaults in her belly. She had spoken aloud. “I cannae imagine brine improves the quality of steel.”
“It does not,” he agreed solemnly. He studied his hands a moment then glanced up. “I like ye better with yer hair tousled and laughter on yer lips.”
Maggie’s breath failed her. Words danced out of her reach. She swallowed. “I like dancing.”
“Ye should always dance, m’lady. It becomes ye.”
“I . . . I believe we are past m’lady. I am plain Maggie.”
“Never plain . . . Maggie.”
The bottom dropped from her stomach. Her name had never sounded so beautiful, so elegant—so sensual.
The mead. ’Tis surely the mead.
Heat rose, spreading up her neck and cheeks. Embarrassment. Longing.
He is a mercenary. He will be gone soon, and I have much to do here. Spending time in the arms of a man nae my husband would be ill-advised.
Her heart twisted against the words. She closed her eyes and fought her attraction to him.
Phillipe remained motionless, asking nothing of her. Had she imagined the drop in his voice as he spoke her name? She swallowed. She would not embarrass herself further by acting like a swooning lass.